Research group breaks down bioactive plant compound selection

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Chemical compound Nutrition

A two-pronged approach to identifying bioactive plant compounds means that expected results can be rapidly confirmed, while the opportunity of unexpected discoveries still remains open, according to a France-based research services group.

PhytoDia, which specialises in the scientific analysis and documentation of nutraceutical plant compounds, applies two selection processes: the ‘probabilist’ approach and the ‘rational’ approach.

The firm says it uses the two different methods to identify new ingredients – or substantiate existing ones – for clients in the food, supplement, cosmetics and pharmaceutical sectors.

Areas of focus for the research group include diabetes and weight management (for example via ingredients that inhibit glucose absorption, stimulate insulin secretion, or stimulate fat metabolism). An overall health and wellness approach also involves research in areas such as immunity and inflammation, anxiety and stress relief, and vitality and anti-aging.

Two approaches

PhytoDia’s ‘probabilist’ approach is a way to identify the most active extract in a compound. The firm uses in vitro​ assays to test the efficacy of extracts. Via a bio-guided selection, it then identifies the 5-10 best performing fractions and repeats the tests until it arrives at the specific fraction or molecule in the compound that demonstrates the best activity.

The ‘rational’ approach involves exclusion criteria – such as patents or lack of innovation – as well as selection criteria such as activity in several parts of the same plant, or in several plants from the same species.

Probabilist vs Rational

The main difference between rational and probabilistic is that research for the former is based on the study of existing information, with the goal of constructing an oriented study,” ​explained Axelle Strehle, PhytoDia’s business developer.

“The probabilistic method is more exhaustive and includes the maximum of plants/assays to get, probably, one result. The rational approach often delivers results more rapidly but the probabilistic approach may lead to unexpected discoveries or applications.”

For example, if a customer required a new ingredient to carry an anti-diabetic claim, under the rational approach PhytoDia would first scan existing literature for known compounds that carry these benefits, before conducting a bioguided selection on the chosen extracts to identify an active molecule.

The probabilistic approach would involve testing the maximum number of plant extracts on the maximum anti-diabetic assays.

Health claims boost

Phytodia was set up in 2006, partly in anticipation of the increased research needs facing the food and nutraceutical industry as a result of the new European health claims regulations.

The group now includes 10 scientists, offering services such as the development and standardization of analytical methods, extraction processes, bioguided selection and pharmacological validation.

Related topics Formulation & Science